By Suheil Laher
Do you love the life of this world? Is a Muslim allowed to love it? The answer is YES. It is well-known that Muslims are not supposed to renounce the world; monasticism is not an ideal (as a hadith explicitly mentions), and in the Qur’an we are taught to pray for “good in the world and good in the Hereafter” [Qur’an, 2:201]. Yet, we find some passages of the Qur’an, and some hadiths, that are very critical of al-hayat al-dunya (often translated as “the life of this world”; I return below to a more expressive translation). Nevertheless, there is no contradiction or paradox here. In reality, the life of this world is not what is evil; the confusion comes from not taking account of lexicological and theological context . A complete condemnation of and renouncement of this world is not the correct Muslim attitude, and is dangerous and harmful to human existence.
Let’s look at one of the verses that paints al-hayat al-dunya negatively:
“Know that the ‘life of this world’ is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.” [Qur’an, 57:20]
Fakhruddin al-Razi (d. 606/1209) began his exegesis of this verse with a comment that might seem audacious, for he seems to be claiming the opposite of what the verse tells us:
“Know that the life of this world is wisdom and rectitude, and a blessing; in fact, the root of all blessings.” [Razi, Al-Tafsir al-Kabir]
Razi was not a closet heretic; rather, he is reminding readers that the life of this world has different dimensions, and that the verse is discussing only one of these aspects. So it is true, as he goes on to discuss, that this life can be:
- la`ib: play, like children engage in, tiring themselves without any benefit (i.e. without any goal or achievement),
- lahw: a diversion, such as adults may engage in but which results in regret,
- zinah: an adornment, which can only be necessary to beautify ugliness
At the same time, God has created this world for us [Qur’an, 2:29], not without purpose [Qur’an, 23:115], and so it is not meaningless or in vain. Razi then contextualizes the verse’s dispraise by quoting Ibn `Abbas (d. 68/687), the famous exegete from the Prophet’s companions:
“The meaning [of the verse] is that the disbeliever is busy all his life seeking the adornment of this world without working for the Hereafter.”
Hanbali theologian Hafiz Ibn Rajab (d. 795/1392) further clarifies the scope of the condemnation conveyed by this verse and similar texts. He observes that the condemnation:
- is not of the place of this world, for God has made it an abode and a cradle for human civilization [Qur’an, 20:53, etc.]
- nor of the natural phenomena in this world (such as mountains, seas, rivers, vegetation and animal life), for God has created them as blessings, and as great signs, which through reasoning and reflection yield profound insights regarding the Oneness of God
- nor of the time of this world, for God has made the alternation of night and day a reminder for those who ponder and are grateful. [Qur’an, 25:62]
Hence, he concludes that the condemnation of al-hayat al-dunya (“the life of this world”) is a condemnation of the evil deeds committed therein by human beings; deeds which lack benefit and/or cause harm. [Ibn Rajab, Jami` al-`Ulum wal-Hikam]
This world is deceptive (e.g. Qur’an, 35:5), Ibn Rajab continues, in the sense that its pleasures do not endure; youth yields to old age, the healthy become sick, the wealthy may be reduced to poverty, the mighty might be abased. A person may spend the greater part of his life saving money and making plans for the future, only to die leaving it all behind. Similarly Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751/1350) mentions how “this world” is like an elusive shadow, a mirage or a dream. In a (much earlier) saying from Ibn `Abbas, the pursuit of the superficial things of this world is likened to the pursuit of an ugly hag who has adorned herself in pretty clothes.
It is in this context of ephemerality (especially in comparison with the unending state of existence after death, the world Hereafter), and as a reminder not to neglect the deeper realities and more meaningful dimensions of existence, that we must understand the Qur’anic condemnation of al-hayat al-dunya (I return below to a more accurate translation than ‘the life of this world’.) It is not a renouncement, a trivialization, or a blanket condemnation of everything of this life.
This has always been the understanding of leading scholars. Thus, while it is true that Caliph Ali would say, “O world! Go and deceive someone else!” nevertheless it is also reported that he scolded a man for cursing the world: Don’t curse this world, for the world contains the mosques devoted to God’s worship; the world is the place God honored by sending down revealed guidance, and it contains angels who are engaged in God’s obedience; the world is a marketplace for the believer (wherein he achieves good and thereby earns the life of eternal happiness). In this light, the ascetic of Rayy, Yahya ibn Mu`adh (d. 258/871) said, “How can I not love a world in which there is apportioned to me sustenance by which I can earn a life in which I obey God and thereby attain the Hereafter.” In fact, in a hadith we are told that even the most pious believers, the persons loved by God, love this life (“He hates death, and [God] hates to displease him.”).
How to translate al-hayat al-dunya?
As I mentioned earlier, a part of the confusion about the role of and attitude to this world comes from translating al-hayat al-dunya simply as “the life of this world”. Let’s look closer at the two Arabic words involved. Al-hayat does mean life, but al-dunya is not, strictly speaking “the world” (which would normally be al-`alam). Dunya is a superlative from the Arabic root d-n-(w/y), which has two meanings: one of nearness and the other of lowness and contemptibility. [See: Ibn al-Manzur’s classical lexicon Lisan al-`Arab] So al-hayat al-dunya is literally “the Nearest Life,” (by comparison with the Hereafter, which is temporally further away), but also potentially “the Lowest Life.” The latter translation is powerful in that it captures the underlying concepts discussed earlier in this article. So, let’s plug this back into our previous translation of [Quran, 57:20]:
“Know that the Lowest Life is play, and diversion, and….”
Thus, there are parts of this world — the more profoundly meaningful ideas, as well as beneficial acts and good deeds done with the correct motivation — that are not part of al-hayat al-dunya. We have already seen this implicitly contained in the statements of scholars quoted above, and to this we can add that the classical exegesis Tafsir al-Jalalayn states that “[good] deeds of obedience to God, and everything that assists in that,” are not part of the dunya but rather of the Hereafter. In English, we have the (similar, although perhaps narrower) term “low life” that carries similar connotations to dunya. A view from mystical Judaism considers this world – with its pain, suffering and death – as the “lowest” possible world that still reflects the attributes of divine goodness and mercy.
Rise Above the Lower Life
The correct attitude to this life is to keep striving to ascend to higher things, spiritually and morally.
“To [God] ascend the good words, and the righteous deeds lift them up.” [Qur’an, 35:10]
The five daily prayers – which according to the hadiths were prescribed upon Muslims on the Night of the Heavenly Ascent (Mi`raj) – are your personal opportunity for a private ascent to communicate with your Creator. In a hadith, we are told that the the Highest Assembly of Angels was arguing about the three expiators of sins (kaffarat) and the three deeds of rank (darajat). In order to ascend upwards, you need to first break free of the shackles of “the lowest life,” and your past sins are those shackles. This lift-off is achieved through the three expiators: performing ablution properly under difficulty, walking by foot to congregational prayer, and waiting for one prayer after the next. But in between we need to strive in the “worldly” domain too, and to continue the ascent there, as two of the three deeds of rank show: spreading peace and feeding others. Spreading peace is not limited to using the Islamic greeting of salam; rather it is merely a start of striving for global peace, and likewise we desire the eradication of poverty and hunger. The third deed of rank, “praying by night while people are asleep,” (a non-obligatory, but praiseworthy deed), is a reminder that the ascent cannot be achieved only by deeds that benefit others, unless the individual develops his/her own spirituality and relationship with the Creator.
So, to recap, this world is not evil, and not to be renounced. The Qur’an portrays the world as a blessing from God, full of tremendously profound and beautiful signs of God’s existence and oneness, and a place with potential for great good. The Prophet has said, “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” [Narrated by Muslim] The condemnation is of the lowest life, a pursuit of the fleeting without concern for deeper values, and without acknowledging God and the eternity that is far greater (indeed, infinitely so, in mathematical terms) than this finite world. This world should be appreciated appropriately, which includes striving upward to make it a better place. An insular lack of concern for this, even in the guise of religiosity, is contradictory to the mission of humankind on this earth; the task of furthering good, and fostering and handing on a constructive, beneficial civilization (see: Qur’an, 67:2, 2:30, 11:61, 7:129).
A key to escaping the lowest life is: not to allow the mundane to become profane.
By Suheil Laher
“If you don’t convert to (my sect) you might as well not convert to Islam!” exclaimed the ‘uncle’ to the young Christian lady. The lady’s husband, a Muslim, had requested his elder friend (despite his different school of thought in Islam) to come and help explain to her why Islam is so important to her husband, and why he’d like her, too, to share in its joy. The husband was startled by this narrow-minded bombshell. The shocking words of the ‘uncle’ highlight a lack of priorities plaguing some of those who profess themselves to be Muslim.
More specifically, some Muslims are sometimes (and any frequency is too often for something this important) too quick to declare someone to be outside the fold of Islam due to (i) imperfect practice, or (ii) disagreement on a non-core belief (e.g. whether and when capital punishment is mandated for apostasy, or stoning for adultery)
Justice involves putting everything in its appropriate place, and giving each his/her/its due right.
“God commands you that you restore deposits to their owners, and, when you judge between mankind, that you judge justly. How excellent is the teaching that God gives you! Surely, God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” [Qur’an 4:58]
“The just ones will be, before God, on pulpits of light….those who are just in their judgment, their families, and what they are in charge of.’ [Muslim]
For convenience, we can subdivide justice into the following categories:
1. Justice to God
- Giving thanks
“I hate ingratitude more in a person; than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or, any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.” [Shakespeare, Twelfth Night] Read more
Below are some brief notes on Justice in Islam. Neither the list of points, nor the scriptural texts quoted, are intended to be exhaustive. The topic is clearly more vast than to be encompassed in a brief note such as this.
· Justice is a central value – if not the central value – in Islam
“Verily, Allah commands justice, kindness and giving to relatives, and prohibits shamefulness, wrong and transgression. He instructs you that you might take heed.” [Qur’an, 16:90]
`Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, the Companion, held this verse to the most comprehensive verse of the Qur’an.
The themes of divine justice, particularly in the Hereafter, and of the imperative for human justice, can be found in a large number of verses.
· Justice is also one of the attributes of Allah
“Allah does not do injustice [even to the extent] of an atom’s weight.” [Qur’an, 4:40] Read more
How do hadith scholars grade ahadith? Do they all share the same criteria or are there different views? Have they restricted their efforts to scrutiny of the chain of narration (isnad), or did they take the content (matn) into consideration too? What should I do if I am troubled by the content of a particular hadith?
There is general agreement amongst hadith scholars on the criteria for hadith authentication. Some criteria relate to the transmission (isnad), and others to the content (matn).
There are five principal conditions which must be satisfied for the isnad. Lack of any of these conditions generally implies weakness in the narration. (However, weakness does not necessarily imply uselessness or total rejection of the narration. There are different grades of weak narration. As in a court of law, even a dubious witness’ testimony, though not totally credible, might still cast some light on matters.) Read more
“Why should there be more than one religion? Are all religions true? Are some truer than others? Can religion aspire to function as a positive force in the world?” Thus does a leading contemporary academic identify some of the major questions posed by human curiosity. The relationship between religions is something that has long drawn the attention of theologians, scholars and historians, and in today’s global context of increased mutual awareness of and interaction between religions, the subject is of still greater practical relevance. Without detracting from this, I will assert that it behooves every individual to ponder upon such questions in the context of their own spiritual quest, and that indeed, that is ultimately the more important dimension of such enquiry.
Humility is an essential attitude in anyone claiming to be religious; so too in the seeker, and even, I proffer, in the skeptic. We must be humble before God (or at least before truth and reality, for one who has not yet acknowledged God), realizing our frailty, our own limitations of knowledge, our shortcomings and the uncertainty of our final state. We must also exhibit humility toward our fellow human beings, and not be so presumptuous as to regard ourselves as absolute judges (let alone assume the roles of judge, jury and executioner) over other individuals. Read more
“And the agony of death comes with the Truth; that is what you used to flee from!” [Qur’an, 50:19]
Death is the separation of the soul from the body, and we all know that it is inevitable. It is the event which marks our transition from this world into the Hereafter. Whenever `Uthman (may Allah be well pleased with him) used to stand over a grave, he used to weep until his beard became soaked. Someone said to him, “Heaven and Hell are mentioned, and you do not weep, and [yet] the grave is mentioned, and you weep, [how is this] ?” He said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) say : The grave is the first stage of the Hereafter. So, if he is saved from it, that which is after it will be easier, whereas if he is not saved from it, then that which is after it will be more severe.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi)
Belief in the events following death is an integral part of the Islamic doctrine. Although the existence of the Hereafter is rationally admissible, the exact details of it can only be acquired through communication from the Creator, for these events fall in the realm of the Unseen. Read more
Verification of the Descent of Jesus, son of Mary (peace be upon them both)
- Evidence From The Qur’an
- Affirming Verses
- “And he [Jesus] shall speak to mankind in the cradle and in middle age, and [he shall be] among the righteous.” Q[3:46]
The wording here is significant:
- Speaking in middle-age is not usually extraordinary in itself, unlike speaking in the cradle which is a miracle. The fact that the verse makes specific mention of his speaking in middle age (and that it is also mentioned in Q[5:110] as a favor to be recalled on the Day of Judgment) suggests that it carries some significance. Certainly, for someone to disappear from this world, remain for thousands of years in a realm wherein he does not age, and then return to continue his life and subsequently speak in middle age, is something warranting special mention.
- He was sent to the Children of Israel (Q[3:49]), but this verse says he will speak to mankind, without further specification.
- The verse says he will speak to them in middle age. Yet, he was only 33 or 34 years old when he was lifted up to the heavens [Reported by Ibn Katheer from Hasan al-Basri, and Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib; Ibn Abi al-Dunya has attributed this directly to the Prophet. The same age is stated by Zayd ibn Aslam, Ibn Zayd and others of the Tabi`in, and was concluded to be the strongest view by the prominent exegetes al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir], and that is not yet middle-aged (kahl).
These points, then, are an indication of the fact that Jesus has not died, and will return to this earth toward the end of the world, thereby speaking to mankind at large in his old age. The same interpretation has been reported by the exegete Ibn Jarir al-Tabari from Ibn Zayd
The following are reasons for taking “his death” to refer to Jesus’ death, rather than the death of each individual of the People of the Book:
- Context of the verse; the preceding verses are talking about Allah’s foiling of the attempt to kill Jesus (peace be upon him).
- Taking the first pronoun (‘him’) to refer to Jesus, but the second one (‘his’) to refer to a person of the book implies ‘dispersal of pronouns’ (tashtit al-dama‘ir), which is undesirable in the Arabic language. Taking both pronouns as referring to Jesus (peace be upon him) is, in contrast, the most natural interpretation, as stated by Abu Hayyan, the linguist, in his Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit.
- The verse has been explained in this way by 2 prominent Companions: Ibn `Abbas, the renowned exegete [as narrated by al-Hakim, Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, `Abd ibn Humayd, Ibn Abi Hatim, al-Faryabi and others], and Abu Hurayrah [Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ibn Mardawayh, Ibn Sa`d], as well as by a number of the Tabi`in : Qatadah, Ibn Zayd, Abu Malik, Hasan al-Basri [as narrated by al-Tabari].
- The validity of this interpretation is confirmed in mutawatir ahadith (discussed further in Section B).
- Explained thus in a hadith attributed to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), via Ibn `Abbas, as in Sahih ibn Hibban. The same interpretation is given by numerous Sahabah and Tabi`in, including Ibn `Abbas, Abu Malik, Hasan al-Basri, Mujahid, Qatadah, Suddi, Dahhak and Ibn Zayd, as recorded by al-Tabari. This was also regarded as the most natural explanation by the exegete and linguist Abu Hayyan, and was the interpretation selected by virtually every other exegete of renown, such as al-Zamakhshari, al-Razi, al-Baghawi, al-Jalal al-Muhalli, Ibn Katheer, and al-Alusi.
- Indicated by context of the verse; the preceding verses talk about Jesus (peace be upon him).
- Anything else gives for an awkward structure or forced interpretation.
II. Dispellation of Confusions
- “When Allah said, ‘O Jesus! I shall mutawaffika (gather you up / cause you to die), and raise you up to Me, and purify you from those who disbelieve, . . .” Q[3:55]
Bukhari reported that Ibn `Abbas said, “mutawaffika – cause you to die.”
- Bukhari reported this without an isnad, and it is not sahih. Bukhari’s mu`allaqat (‘hanging’ reports cited without an isnad) were not subjected to his criteria of the highest authenticity. Hafiz Ibn Hajar painstakingly traced the chains of narration of the mu`allaqat in a 5 volume work Taghliq al-Ta`liq. Some of the mu`allaqat are authentic, others are not, and the one in question is not. It is narrated by Ibn Abi Hatim through his isnad: Mu`awiyah [ibn Salih], from `Ali ibn Abi Talhah, from Ibn `Abbas. `Ali ibn Abi Talhah al-Hashimi (d. 143 H) did not meet Ibn `Abbas or any others of the Sahabah, aside from the fact that his reliability is disputed.
- In fact, “tawaffa” (the verb of “mutawaffika”) is also used in the Qur’an with the meaning of “to cause to sleep,” [Q[6:60] and Q[39:42]). This is the meaning which has been selected by the majority of exegetes, as cited by Hafiz Ibn Kathir [Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol I, p. 286]. There may be support for this view also in the Biblical accounts which speak of Jesus (peace be upon him) and the disciples going to the Mount of Olives shortly before the alleged trial and crucifixion, and the disciples being overcome by sleep. [Matt 26, Luke 22] It is conceivable that Jesus, too, was made to sleep, and then raised up in this state, such that someone else was then crucified in his place.
- Even if the narration attributed to Ibn `Abbas were authentic, the word “wa” (“and”) does not carry connotations of temporal succession. Hence, it is conceivable that the dying referred to is that which will occur after his return.
- Even if Jeus (peace be upon him) had died, this would not rule out his returning to the earth.
“Have you not seen those who came out of their homes in thousands, fearing death? Allah said to them, ‘Die!’ and then He brought them to life.” Q[2:243]
“Or, like he who passed by a city while it was lying in ruin; he said, ‘How will Allah give life to this after its death?’ Then, Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, and then brought him to life.” Q [2:259]
“And I give life to the dead, by Allah’s leave.” Q[3:49]
This is irrelevant here, for immortality (al-khuld) means to remain in a place forever, never leaving it.
B. Evidence From The Sunnah
Ahadith can be classified into two categories: ahad and mutawatir. Ahad narrations are those which are narrated only by one person, or a couple of people, in one or more generations (since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link), from the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his Household) until ahadith were systematically compiled into books. If uncorroborated by other evidence, an ahad narration typically does not convey certain knowledge, since there is a possibility that a mistake or lie was introduced by a narrator somewhere in the chain. Admittedly, if the isnad (chain of narration) of the ahad hadith is found to be reliable or authentic (sahih) , then the probability of error becomes small, even negligible.
A mutawatir narration, on the other hand, is one which is narrated by ‘a multitude’ in each generation, i.e. by numerous people in each generation. Multiple chains of transmission corroborate one another, and when they reach a certain threshold (which is the case for a mutawatir hadith), they convey absolute certainty that the contents of the hadith in question indeed trace back reliably to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This is because it is not conceivable for so many people in each generation all to make a mistake, or all to forget in the same way, or all to collude to lie.
The ahadith about the descent of the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary (peace be upon them both) at the end of time are mutawatir. They have been narrated from 27 or 28 of the Sahabah from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his Household). Shaykh `Abdullah al-Ghumari has painstakingly traced the names of these Sahabah, as well as the names of the Tabi`in who narrated the ahadith in question from them, and so on and so on, until the 6th generation after the Prophet, in which the books of hadith were compiled. He notes that ahadith on this subject have been recorded by
- compilers of Sahihs: Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibban, al-Hakim, and others
- compilers of Sunan: Tirmidhi, Nasa’I, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi and others.
- compilers of Musnads: Tayalisi, Ahmad, Ibn Rahawayh, `Uthman Ibn Abi Shaybah, Abu Ya`la, Bazzar and others.
- compilers of Musannafs: `Abdur-Razzaq, Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Shaybah and others.
- compilers of Tafseers: Tabari, Ibn al-Mundhir, `Abd ibn Humayd and others.
- compilers of Mu`jams: Tabarani and others.
- compilers of other, specialized collections: Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Daraqutni, Tahawi,Abu Nu`aym, Nu`aym ibn Hammad, Ibn `Asakir and others.
[See: Ghumari, `Aqidat Ahl al-Islam fi Nuzul `Isa `alayhis-salam, pp. 7-11]
[See: Ghumari, `Aqidat Ahl al-Islam fi Nuzul `Isa `alayhis-salam, pp. 7-11]
One need only open any of the common books of hadith, or do a search on any of the searcheable databases, to realize the dissemination of these ahadith. For example, a topic-based search on Sakhr’s “Mawsu`at al-Hadith al-Sharif” CD turns up 61 related ahadith in the 9 books covered. These are narrated from 12 different initial narrators. 15 of these hadith are in Bukhari and/or Muslim.
Among the experts in Islamic sciences, who have specifically referred to these ahadith being mutawatir, are the following:
- Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H), the renowned muhaddith, historian and Qur’anic exegete, says, “The ahadith have been mass-narrated from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), [stating] that he informed of the descent of Jesus (upon him be peace) before the Day of Arising as a just leader and an equitable judge.” [Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol IV, p. 132 and vol I, p. 582]
- Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani (d. 852 H) , the renowned muhaddith and commentator of Sahih al-Bukhari, has mentioned the mass-narration of the descent of Jesus (upon him be peace), on the authority of Hafiz Abul-Husayn al-Aburi. [Fath al-Bari vol. VI, p. 358]
- Qadi Shawkani (d. 1250 H), set about compiling ahadith on this topic. He named his book “At-Tawdih bi-ma tawatara fil-Muntazar wad-Dajjal wal-Masih” (The clarification of that which has been mass-narrated about the Awaited [Mahdi], the False Messiah and the Messiah), and it contains 29 narrations.
- `Allamah Muhammad Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri (d. 1352 H) compiled “Al-Tasreeh bi-ma Tawatara fi Nuzul al-Masih” (The Declaration of that which has been Mass-Narrated regarding the Descent of the Messiah), a collection of ahadith which specifically deals with the “descent” aspect of the subject. He found over 70 ahadith, as well as 25 statements from Sahabah and Tabi`in, which, for matters of the unseen such as this one, are usually considered to have their origin in Prophetic teaching, and hence carry weight similar to that of a saying of the Prophet himself.
- Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ja`far al-Kittani (d. 1927 CE), who cited the subject, in his compilation Nazm al-Mutanathir min al-Hadith al-Mutawatir, as being one of the issues on which the ahadith are mutawatir.
We may also note that the belief in the Descent of Jesus, son of Mary, at the End of Time has been held since the time of the Sahabah, and moreover included by numerous scholars in their statements, treatises and expositions of Islamic doctrine. Shaykh al-Ghumari [op. cit. pp 16-30, and also in Iqamat al-Burhan `ala Nuzul `Isa fi Akhir al-Zaman, 110-124] once again (may Allah reward him well), has diligently compiled a list of individuals from the generations of the Sahabah and onwards who stated or documented this belief. Among the scholars who documented the belief, and whose treatise has been unanimously approved by Muslim scholars of doctrine (with the exception of a handful of points, this one not being among them) was Imam Abu Ja`far Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tahawi (d. 321 H). The belief is shared not only by the common Sunni schools of doctrine (Ash`aris, Maturidis, Hanbalis, Zahiris) but also by the Shi`ites. It is also known that many scholars from the above schools do not include an item as a point of doctrine unless the evidence for it is compelling, i.e. mutawatir.
The ahadith about the emergence of the Charlatan, the False Messiah, are similarly mutawatir. One who peruses Hafiz Ibn Kathir’s “Al-Nihayah,” will be fully convinced of this, for well over fifty pages of the book [pp. 92-149] are full of only a selection (almost 100) of these narrations.
Is the False Messiah mentioned in the Qur’an? Certainly, he is not mentioned directly, and there could be various reasons for this. Perhaps it is because the mention (even though inexplicit) of the return of the True Messiah, who will slay the charlatan, removes the need to mention the Dajjal. Or, perhaps the omission is a subtle allusion to Dajjal’s insignificance before Allah. Or, perhaps he is mentioned indirectly, in Q[40:57], as opined by al-Baghawi. Of course, it is not necessary for every detail of religious teaching to be mentioned in the Qur’an, nor even to be alluded to. The sunnah is the counterpart of the Qur’an, reinforcing, clarifying, expounding, specifying, detailing and supplementing the information in the Qur’an. Religious teaching gleaned from the authentic ahadith is just as authoritative as that from the Qur’an, especially in the case of mutawatir ahadith.
May Allah grant us the courage to learn about and implement the sunnah of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his Household) in all aspects of our lives.
And in closing, we praise Allah, Sustainer of the Universe.
Prelude: Belief in the Unseen
Our five senses are powerful means for discovering, observing and experiencing the world we live in. Yet, just as we know that a blind man’s inability to see does not disprove the existence of light, it would be presumptuous for us to insist that nothing exists outside of what we can perceive by our senses. Indeed, our minds can conceive the hypothetical existence of other dimensions and worlds in parallel with our own, or beyond it. Advances in human technology demonstrate to us that human knowledge is limited, and thus give us further reason to be humble. A clear, filtered glass of water may actually contain millions of microscopic organisms, which we can only see through a microscope. A dark room might actually contain infrared light, X-rays, radio waves or electromagnetic fields that are invisible to us, yet quite real. The very existence of matter is based on the arrangements and precise roles of countless subatomic particles.
Belief in the angels is the second pillar of faith.
“The Messenger believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and [so do] the believers. All believe in Allah, His angels and His messengers.” [Qur’an, 2:285]
Muslim belief in angels is based only on authentic scriptural knowledge. Superstition, fantasy and supernatural speculation are unreliable sources of objective knowledge, and hence are not relied upon for matters of belief. Read more
4. Practical Applications of the Belief in Destiny
4.1 Thankfulness in times of prosperity and well-being
The Muslim should always be thankful to Allah, for he owes all his favors to Him. We should be thankful in the good times such that we do not become arrogant and conceited. We should realize that any success we attain is from Allah, Who could withdraw it whenever He wills. We should not, therefore, be like Qarun, the evil kinsman of Prophet Moses `alayhis-salam, who had been given immense wealth, but claimed the credit for himself. “He said, ‘I have only been given it only because of knowledge which I possess.’ Did he not know that Allah has destroyed before him generations who were mightier than him in power, and greater in number?” [(28) Al-Qasas, 78]
Qarun attributed his wealth to knowledge : either religious knowledge – for it is said that he had memorized the Torah – or worldly knowledge, such as that of trade and commerce. He thus failed the test, for even if the wealth were a partial reward for piety, then in order to remain in the favor of Allah, he should have been thankful to Him and spent the money in good causes such as feeding the poor, helping the needy and working for justice. And, even if he had obtained the money through some worldly business expertise, he overlooked the fact that that was only a means, and that in fact the means themselves could not have been obtained, maintained and exercised without the will and grace of Allah.
“Then, when affliction smites man, he cries out to Us, then when We have removed it, as a favor from Us, he says, ‘I have only been given it based on knowledge.’ Nay! It is a test, but most of them do not know. Those before them said [the same], but all they earned did not avail them [aught].” [(39) Al-Zumar, 49-50] Read more